How to Help Children Develop a Healthy Relationship with Social Media
In response to COVID-19, the world of learning has been turned upside down. The heightened use of technology for distance learning has been both a blessing and a curse. Whether you’re one of the 70% of U.S. adults with at least one social media account or not, you’ve realized the double edged sword that comes with social media being a part of children’s lives. With children’s increased use of technology and access to social media, it’s important to teach the youth how to develop a healthy relationship with it.
Sure, there are plenty of things to be cautious about with social media and your kids, especially the time spent using them. Ultimately a healthy relationship with the Facebooks, Instagrams, Twitters, Snapchats, TikToks, etc., of the cyber universe is a good thing. Colleges use social media to communicate, and potential employers often look at it during their hiring processes, so a total avoidance of social media won’t be setting your child up for success in today’s corporate world. There are even college degrees in social media now, so learning how to use these tools in a limited-yet-constructive manner will benefit your children on their paths to independence.
Ask Them To Explain Any Problem They Have With Social Media
As social media is something that younger generations simply have a better grasp on, trying to get “ahead” of any issues your children may be having with social media can be a near-impossible task. The best way to identify any problems your kids may be having is to simply ask. Cyberbullying, impractical self-expectation, and even cyberstalking are all issues that occur because of social media, so be sure to ask if you think your child may be experiencing any of these.
Most times, your child’s time spent online will be devoid of the issues mentioned above, but if that time starts preventing your kids from doing other things, that presents an issue all in itself. Before the internet, the equivalent to going down a social media wormhole was to read the entire newspaper.
With social media, that “newspaper” is endless, and isolation caused by social media can lead to other issues such as loneliness, poor sleep habits, increased stress, and even poor cardiovascular function from a lack of movement. Determining a healthy amount of time spent in front of a screen versus time spent detached from online activities is an important balance for your children.
Limit Screen Time
“Screen time” isn’t solely related to social media, but given the research done on social media use among teens, you can bet it’s a huge chunk of the time your child spends looking at a screen each day.
If your child is very young, screen time should be almost non-existent. For kids who are two years of age and younger, screen time should be limited to occasional face chatting with mom and dad when they are away for work. For preschoolers, it’s recommended that less than an hour a day be spent in front of a screen, and even that hour should be educational.
As your kids reach school age, it becomes impossible to monitor all of the screen time, so conversation again becomes the best way to gauge this. Helping your kids determine their own healthy amounts of screen time can make it seem more like a challenge than a rule, but setting your child up for success is also a good idea. Creating areas of your house that are “tech free” and encouraging time spent there is a great start.
If you’re a bit wary of the amounts of time your kids are telling you they spend on social media, you can also put parental controls and notifications on them to track the amount of time eyes are spent looking at a phone or tablet when it may have been thought they were looking at assignments.
Talk Openly About Social Media Safety
The recurring theme in each section of this article has been communication, and it really is the most important part. The parallel universe that is social media is almost impossible to police, so discussing safe internet practices is crucial. Leading by example with your own (it’s really easy to set up!) can help keep your child’s mind positive and body active beyond the screens.